Posted by: forfreedomalone | 10/03/2011

Missing the point

We are now in the period certain churches call Lent. People all over the place are giving up this and that in preparation for Holy Week which is, in itself, a preparation for Easter. I asked a client, today, why she was giving up watching television for 40 days; I wondered what she would gain as a result of her fast. “I will show my repentance for my sins” she said. “How does that work?”, I ask, genuinely interested in her reasoning. “God looks at my sacrifice and knows that it is a sign of my sorrow for sinning. When he sees my sacrifice he will forgive me” “Ah,”, I said “You are a legalist!” She was shocked. “You don’t trust God, you want to bribe him”. She was more shocked, but willing to engage in a conversation about my radical ideas. This is more or less how it went.

She believed that she was a sinner, that is, a person who sinned and she had to be sorry about and make payment for her sins and seek forgiveness from God on a regular basis. She believed that God would look kindly on her penitence and sacrifice and then he would forgive her; but as she is a sinner she would sin again at some point and so the process would have to be repeated. She was shaken to her boots by my assertion that I am not a sinner and that I do not have to do any of these things. I occasional sin, but I do not need to seek forgiveness from God for that, I just need to repent and access the forgiveness I have already received. Sin and its effects on her life are deep and profound, they produce nary a hiccup to me. Why? Semantics.

To my client sin is the things she does which are wrong, bad or unchristian. They are very serious and concerning to her. They produce great guilt and she deeply, sincerely, wants to stop doing them. For some reason; which she does not understand; she cannot stop and so this year, in an attempt to show God just how sorry she really is, she is giving up the one real pleasure she has in her life. This may sound as though I am mocking her, I am most assuredly not.
She cannot give up what she sees as sin because she is sin conscious and her consciousness of sin is totally wrong. She sees actions as being sin; the more she focuses on not doing certain things the more she does them. Like the old adage of “don’t think about pink monkeys” what are you thinking about?…..pink monkeys! She has a mindset which is based on law. This is right, that is wrong; this will please God, that will displease him. Paul says that the only thing the law can produce is consciousness of sin which leads to death. In fact, he said it is the power of sin. To her “repentance” is a process of soul searching and suffering. But “repent” simply means “to change your mind”. When one repents one say “Oh, I was thinking wrongly about that, I’ll change what I think”

I, on the other hand, see things differently.
The word translated as “sin” actually means “to miss the mark”, as in the bulls-eye on a darts board. What is the mark? The life God wants us to have. What life is that? The exact same life he has. So when we sin, we miss out on the quality of life God has. If we are living under law; any law; which tells us what we must do to please God, we are living in sin. Living in sin is not living with your boy/girlfriend, it is not trusting God. I actually prefer to translate “sin” as “missing the point” because even the idea of a target produces works in people.

The law was kept, all of it, finished, set aside, complete, 2000 years ago. Accept that and live. Refuse to accept that and continue in death. No amount of self sacrifice will please God. The Bible tells us there is only one way to please God and that is to have faith. What is faith? Faith means “to be fully persuaded by an argument to the degree that that argument changes your life”. If you listen to someone talking on recycling and you say to yourself “You know, so-and-so is right, I could re-use those old margarine tubs rather than throwing them out” and then you start using them to store left overs you have faith. To please God you need to be persuaded by the argument that Jesus kept ALL the law, it’s done. He was punished for breaking ALL the law, so you won’t be punished for breaking even a little bit of it and that God then raised him up to a new life where law has no place. Be persuaded. That’s all.
Do you need to repent? If you thought that you needed to do something to get something from God, then yes, you do. You needed to think differently. You need to think, “No, I don’t need to do anything. He loves me just the way I am”.

This has BEEN done, past tense. It applies to everyone, now. No one will every be judged by God for what they do, how they live, or what they don’t do. The only question he will ask is “Did you have faith?”.

If you are labouring under guilt, condemnation, works, religion or fear know that you have been set free. You don’t need to do anything except, accept it. However, if self flagellation feels good to you, feel free. As for me and my house, we will trust the Lord.
Right, time for Top Gear!

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